Automated LA trucks delayed after protest

APM Terminals Los Angeles Los Angeles dockers are concerned about the effect of automation on job security. Credit: APM Terminals

The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners has voted to postpone a construction permit for APM Terminals’ driverless electric cargo trucks amidst backlash from Los Angeles union officials.

Los Angeles union officials, representing around 12,000 dockworkers, are calling for APM Terminals to abandon its plan for the automated system over fears that increasing automation will see Port of Los Angeles jobs lost. Commissioners delayed the permit after an offer by Mayor Eric Garcetti to mediate the dispute, reported the Los Angeles Times.

“The decision before the board may have far-reaching impacts on the pace of automation at our port and could define how the port will compete and sustain jobs into the foreseeable future,” Mr Garcetti wrote in a letter unveiled at the hearing.

The mayor called for a 28-day delay in deciding on the permit, adding that negotiations “should serve as the basis of a new task force to explore automation and its impacts on the future of the Port of Los Angeles and others across the state.”

A 2008 International Longshore and Warehouse Union contract, renewed in 2015, explicitly allowed West Coast ports to continue automating. Two large terminals - one at the Port of Long Beach and one in Los Angeles - have already introduced the driverless vehicles known as UTRs, or utility tractor rigs. However, union members now believe the permit will lead to automation across all 12 of the port complex’s terminals.

Port Strategy has contacted APM Terminals for comment.

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